By Bram Weinstein/@RealBramW
Careless broadcasters think this is time to take a break especially if the press conference is one where the subject will be taking questions. Careless producers will be the ones who engage you about plans for when the show returns to the studio without offering the opportunity to hear what the subject is about to say. How are you going to have an educated conversation about what you just saw and heard if you didn’t spend the time to actually listen to what was said? Take notes. Repeating verbatim what the subject said shows not only you paid attention but will allow you to parse the words accurately. It’s not fair to the subject or the viewer to paraphrase them especially when they said what they said moments earlier. In this era where statements and messaging are carefully crafted, hearing everything they said to the exact detail is imperative to generating educated and thoughtful response to it. The words matter so they must matter to you. Consider that you are listening to a cross examination. The prosecutor can not use anyone’s words against them unless those words qualify to be used against them, i.e.: verbatim.
This is not to suggest that we are trying to find things worth attacking within the context of a news conference. What you are looking for are the most newsworthy moments that leave questions lingering about what this means. Many news conferences are celebratory in nature. Kevin Durant’s MVP speech was not your average award ceremony. He cried, he told stories of how mother raised him and his brother under modest circumstances. It was amazing. These type of moments can be as memorable as the ones where a player was snubbed for a roster spot. Retirement ceremonies can be eye opening to the experience as the subject lived it. Hall of Fame induction ceremonies can be like Oscar awards, most of the speeches are redundant with a cadre of thank yous. But sometimes, Melissa Leo walks on stage and curses on live TV. And sometimes Michael Jordan goes into the Hall of Fame and blasts former rivals and teammates. The point is to be open minded. You never know who is going to be the one who changes how you perceive them or dictates how coverage of the event may be veered in a new direction.
When exiting a news conference, a quick summation of what you saw and heard is important. You cannot assume everyone saw the news conference in it’s entirety. This is where your notes are critical. Do you have direct quotes from the subject in front of you? Can you recite the main points that were delivered? Now, can you construct questions for your expert analysts or are you capable of having a short conversation with a co-anchor or merely your audience describing how you experienced it and what you took away from it. Does it spurn new conversation or is it time to just move on? These are judgment calls that you will learn to make with time. Watch election coverage of the major news networks in particular CNN and NBC who have mastered this art of delving into topics when necessary and moving off of topics that have no lasting value for the broadcast or importance to the viewer.
Ultimately this is about you being educated. If you are not abreast of the topics that are important coming in, you likely won’t understand the news that came out of the hearing/press conference/ceremony. If you are fully educated, the viewer/listener will appreciate it and begin to trust you as a beacon for information. This is not the most fun aspect of your job, but will often shine the brightest light upon you. Immediacy is a gift, how you handle that immediacy separates the pros.
In the meantime, got a comment or want info on speaking engagements? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org and if you’re on the West Coast, come see me in LA March 13th. Details here.
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